What people speculated about after the Timbers traded for Will Johnson, and what people suspected after PTFC signed Diego Valeri, and what people feared after an absence at the first day of training, was finally confirmed by the club on Wednesday. Frank Songo’o is on the outs.
And it’s the right move for the Timbers.
Now, that’s a bold statement. And like any bold statement, it needs to be qualified. Songo’o is a good player. He showed very nicely at times last year, especially late last season. And there’s a good chance he was poised to take another step forward in 2013.
But here is what we know. Franck’s $70,000 2012 salary was to “skyrocket” in the second year of his contract. We don’t know how much, obviously, but it’s safe to assume it was going to be six figures. We also know, per the club’s admission, that his 2013 contract was only partially guaranteed – meaning the Timbers could waive Franck and only the guaranteed portion of the contract would count against the salary cap.
If, as reported today, Franck has been waived, we can guess his 2013 salary was to be well over $100,000. Simply put, for $100,000 some MLS team would have given up a draft pick, allocation money, or an international spot for Franck. He’s a good player. He has value, and that salary number is about right for a player of his quality.
But the current status of the Timbers’ midfield made Franck a luxury. Considering the considerable salary cap constraints the Timbers will be under this season and next, Songo’o was simply a luxury the Timbers couldn’t afford.
It’s hard to know exactly how the Timbers midfield will take shape. It seems likely that it will be either a diamond 4-4-2 or a 4-3-3. We also know that Will Johnson will occupy Franck’s 2012 spot on the left side. We know the Diegos will take up two more spots in the midfield. And, even assuming for a moment there is a fourth midfield spot, the Timbers still have the likes of Darlington Nagbe, Sal Zizzo, and Kalif Alhassan to fill the spot on the right. While Franck probably could beat out Kalif for that spot, and maybe even Zizzo despite his incumbency, it’s unlikely he would have prevailed over Nagbe considering the club’s commitment to Darlington going forward.
The next question is whether Franck could fit up front somewhere. But, there, too, the Timbers have a gaggle of players they are committed to. Ryan Johnson, Bright Dike, Danny Mwanga, Jose Valencia, and – if he’s not already slated in the midfield – Darlington Nagbe are all more obvious fits up front that Franck. The club is already committed to a number of guys who can capably fill every position at which Franck could have been of use.
Instead, Franck’s most likely fit on the team was as a utility midfield sub. After all, in a four-man midfield he can play on the left, right, or in the attacking central role. Franck is a great fit for such a position. But, then again, so is Eric Alexander – who can play on the left or either central midfield position. And what ultimately gives Eric a huge edge over Franck is his $56,925 2012 salary. Sure, Eric isn’t as natural a fit on the right as Franck would be, but that loss is substantially mitigated when you’re looking down the bench at Zizzo and/or Alhassan.
Simply put, Franck didn’t fit a need. Even had he come back, he faced an uphill battle for consistent minutes on a relatively deep attacking roster in a club that couldn’t afford him.
It’s not fun to lose a guy like Franck. He’s an easy guy to like – a good player who clearly enjoyed playing in Portland. But sometimes, as here, it’s a good move for the club to wish a good player well in his future endeavors.
Good luck, Franck.
Onward, Rose City!
 Or some variation thereof.
 Eric, for what it’s worth, is a little bit better fit for Caleb Porter’s high pressure defensive scheme considering his midfield defense is vastly better than Franck’s. Eric’s 6 assists in 24 2012 appearances and 14 starts also compare reasonably well to Franck’s 1 goal and 5 assists in 27 appearances and 21 starts.